NASA’s mission to protect Earth from the hazardous asteroid that could pose a threat to it in the future.

NASA’s mission to protect Earth from the hazardous asteroid that could pose a threat to it in the future.

Why it is in the news? 

Paper: GS paper III, science and technology.

NASA’s DART spacecraft is scheduled to crash into the asteroid Dimorphos at approximately 7.14 PM EDT on September 26 (4.44 AM IST on September 27).

 About the DART Mission

  • NASA’s DART which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test is the world’s first full-scale mission developed in defence of Earth
  • It is a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for defence against an impact on Earth by a hazardous asteroid.
  • The spacecraft was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on 24th November 2021.

Objectives of DART:

  •  DART is the first technology that exhibits the kinetic impact or technique that could be used to mitigate the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth.
  • The kinetic impactor mitigation technique is the impulsive deflection of the asteroid through the sudden addition of momentum. In simpler terms, DART is being sent to collide with an asteroid to change its orbital period

Configuration  of DART:

Weight :

  • It is a low-cost spacecraft DART, weighs about 610 KG at the time of its launch and will discard some of its weight during its flight and will weigh around 550 KG during the impact.


  • The main structure is a box holding dimensions 1.2 × 1.3 × 1.3 meters.
  •  It has two solar arrays and uses hydrazine propellant for maneuvering the spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft has been attached with a high-resolution imager called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO) which is expected to provide precise images and information to the scientists to study the impact of the collision on the trajectory of the asteroid.
  • DART will also carry a small satellite which is a CubeSat named LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids).   

  DART”s Target

  •  DART is programmed to target Dimorphos, the much smaller “moonlet” of a binary (two-body) asteroid system.
  • Dimorphos orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos which means Greek for “twin” with a diameter of 780 meters.

Importance of DART’s crash with Dimorphos

  • Didymos is a perfect system to examine the mission because it is an eclipsing binary which means it has a moonlet that regularly orbits the asteroid and it can be seen when it passes in front of the main asteroid.
  • With the help of a telescope from Earth, it can study this variation in brightness to understand how long it takes Dimorphos to orbit Didymos.

Does Earth really need a planetary defence system?

NASA has set up the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) to look after its ongoing mission of planetary defence.

  • The PDCO’s aims are to give early detection of potentially hazardous objects, track and characterize the objects, study strategies, and technologies for mitigating possible impacts, and play a leading role in U.S. government response planning for an actual impact.
  • DART is the first planetary defence test mission for PDCO.

Source, the space mission)

Plutus IAS current affairs eng med 15th Sep 2022

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